Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Transit Chief Rides Pascack Valley Line

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Transit Chief Rides Pascack Valley Line

Article excerpt

"Hello, I'm Dennis Martin."

It's not every day that NJ Transit's interim executive director rides the Pascack Valley Line, but Friday wasn't just another day. The line's morning commute from Spring Valley, N.Y., stopped at Secaucus Junction -- a little short of the Hoboken Terminal where a speeding train jumped a dead-end bumper, killed one woman and injured at least 100 others, many of them Pascack Valley commuters.

"We just want to thank you for your loyal support and remind you that NJ Transit cares deeply about public safety," said Martin, who walked through car after car soliciting commuter comments.

Would these folks use this opportunity to rail about perceived safety issues that might have contributed to the crash? Might they air past grievances about rising fare hikes and declining service?

Not really.

Instead, Paul Bruno of Hillsdale, who was unscathed in the crash, said he was "amazed" how commuters "came together" to help the wounded in the aftermath of the crash. The Brooklyn businessman said he had no intention of altering his commute.

"These things happen," he said.

But Bruno doesn't oppose efforts to install automatic stopping devices such as Positive Train Control aboard NJ Transit trains to automatically slow them when danger arises -- "even if it means a fare hike," he added.

Maybe on the day after a fatal crash, a fare hike seems attractive if it's tied to safety. After all, Friday was the same day that Governor Christie and legislative leaders finally ended years of bickering and agreed on raising the motor-fuels tax by 23 cents to finance road and rail improvements under the bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund.

"If it's proven that automatic stopping is a safety precaution that really helps make commuters safer, then it's obvious," said Hillsdale's Dylan Scance. "People have to pay for safety."

James Sevier had his own ideas.

"How about two engineers [running a train] in case one passes out or has a heart attack?" said the Rockland County commuter.

Although it's not yet known if the engineer's health played a role in Thursday's crash, others suggested that engineers undergo more frequent medical checks. …

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